Book 2 - Chapter 3: The Nature of the Covenant Between the Father and the Son More Fully Explained - by Herman Witsius

The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man by Herman Witsius

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Herman Witsius (1636-1708)

Arguably known for the best work on Covenant Theology in print (at least in the top 5).

Herman Witsius (1636-1708) was Professor of Divinity in the Universities of Franeker, Utrecht, and Leyden. A brilliant and devout student, he was fluent in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew by the age of fifteen, when he entered the University of Utrecht. He was ordained at twenty-one and served in several pastorates, filling both the pulpit and the academic chair over the course of his life.

This, his magnum opus, is a reflection of some of the most fruitful and mature thinking on federal theology during the seventeenth century, and still holds a preeminent place in our own day.

Chapter III: The Nature of the Covenant between the Father and the Son more fully explained

I. AS the covenant between the Father and the Son is the foundation of the whole of our salvation, it will not be improper to stop here a little, and in our further meditation inquire, 1st, From whence the beginning of this covenant ought to be taken, and in what periods of time it was completed. 2ndly, What the law of the covenant contains, how far, and to what it binds the Son. 3dly, Whether the Son might not have engaged in this covenant, or have withdrawn himself from it, and had no more to do with it. 4thly, What and how great a reward was promised to the Son, and which he was to obtain in virtue of the covenant.

II. I consider three periods, as it were, of this covenant. Its commencement was in the eternal counsel of the adorable Trinity: in which the Son of God was constituted by the Father, with the approbation of the Holy Spirit, the Saviour of mankind; on this condition, that, in the fulness of time, he should be made of a woman, and made under the law; which the Son undertook to perform. Peter has a view to this, when he says, 1 Pet. 1:20, that Christ was foreordained before the foundation of the world. To this purpose is also what the supreme wisdom testifies concerning itself, Prov. 8:23: “I was set up (anointed) from everlasting;” that is, by my own, and the will of my Father, which is one and the same, I was appointed to the performance of the mediatorial office in time. Paul likewise declares, that “we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world,” Eph. 1:4. And consequently, Christ himself was constituted, from everlasting, the head of those that were to be saved, and they were given unto him, John 17:6, for whom he was to merit salvation, and in whom he was to be glorified and admired. From this constitution the Son, from everlasting, bore a peculiar relation to those that were to be saved. Hence the book of life is especially appropriated to the Lamb, Rev. 13:8, as containing a description of the peculiar people assigned to the Lamb from all eternity. Hence also it was, that God, by his amazing wisdom, so ordered many things in man’s state of innocence, that the attentive remembrance of them after the fall, and the comparing them with those things which were afterwards revealed, might have reminded him of this divine counsel; as we have shown, chap. vi. §. 3.

III. The second period of this covenant I place in that intercession of Christ, by which, immediately upon the fall of man, he offered himself to God, now offended, in order actually to perform those things to which he had engaged himself from eternity; saying, thou hast given them to me, and I will make satisfaction for them: and so he made way for the word of grace to be declared to, and the covenant of grace to be made with them. Thus Christ was actually constituted Mediator, and revealed as such immediately upon the fall; and, having undertaken the suretiship, he began to act many things belonging to the offices of a Mediator. As a PROPHET, and the interpreter of the divine will, he even then, by his Spirit, revealed those things relating to the salvation of the elect, and by his ministers published them, Is. 48:15, 1 Pet. 1:11, and 3:19. Nay, he himself sometimes appeared in the character of an angel, instructing his people in the counsel of God. As a KING, he gathered his church, and formed to himself a people, in whom he might reign by his word and Spirit. For it was the Son of God who said to Israel, Ex. 19:6, “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests,” and who, with more than royal pomp, published his law on Mount Sinai, Acts 7:38, and whom Isaiah saw sitting as king upon a throne, chap. 6 compared with John 12:41. As a PRIEST, he took upon himself the sins of the elect, that he might expiate them by the sacrifice of his body, which was to be prepared for him in the fulness of time. In virtue of this, as a faithful surety, he likewise interceded for the elect, by declaring his will, that they might be taken into favour, saying, “Deliver them from going down to the pit, I have found a ransom,” Job 33:24. But what angel could speak thus, but the Angel of the Covenant? Who even then was called an angel, before his coming in the flesh, because he was accomplishing what depended upon that future mission. He is one of a thousand, the captain of the host of angels, that guards each believer, the chiefest of (the standard bearer above) ten thousands, Cantic. 5:10. In like manner, the archangel Michael, (and who is this, but the Lord Jesus Christ?) Dan. 10:13, is called, אחד חשרים הדאשנים, “one of the chief princes,” that is, the unparalleled among the chiefs, because he is חשר הנדול “the great prince,” Dan. 12:1. It is he who declares to man his righteousness, both the righteousness of God and of man. It is he who is כפר the “propitiation,” Rom. 3:25; see also Zech. 1:12, 13.

IV. The third period of this covenant is that, when, on his assuming human nature, he suffered his ears to be bored; compare Psa. 40:7, with Heb. 10:5; that is, engaged himself as a voluntary servant to God, from love to his Lord the Father, and to his spouse the church, and his spiritual children (for the ears of such voluntary servants were bored, Ex. 21:5, 6), was “made under the law,” Gal. 4:4, by subjecting himself to the law: which he solemnly testified by his circumcision on the eighth day after his birth, whereby he made himself “a debtor to do the whole law,” Gal. 5:3.

V. The law, proposed to the Mediator, may be considered in a twofold view: 1st, As the directory of his nature and office. 2dly, As the condition of the covenant. The Mediator himself may be considered these three ways. 1st, As God. 2dly, As Man. 3dly, As Mediator, God-man. We are distinctly to compare these things together.

VI. The Son, as God, neither was, nor could be subject to any law, to any superior; that being contrary to the nature of Godhead, which we now suppose the Son to have in common with the Father. “He thought it no robbery to be equal with God.” No subjection, nothing but the highest super-eminence, can be conceived of the Deity. In this respect he is “King of kings, and Lord of lords.” 1 Tim. 6:15. The emperors Gratian, Valentine, and Theodosius said, long ago, that “he is a true Christian, who believes that the Deity of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is one in equal power; that, under the same majesty, there is one Deity; and he who teaches the contrary is a heretic;” Cod. lib. i. tit. 1.

VII. Nor is it any objection against this, that the Son, from eternity, undertook for men, and thereby came under a certain peculiar relation to those that were to be saved. For, as that engagement was nothing but the most glorious act of the divine will of the Son, doing what none but God could do, it implies therefore no manner of subjection: it only imports that there should be a time when that divine person, on assuming flesh, would appear in the form of a servant. And by undertaking to perform this obedience, in the human nature, in its proper time, the Son, as God, did no more subject himself to the Father, than the Father with respect to the Son, to the owing that reward of debt, which he promised him a right to claim. All these things are to be conceived of in a manner becoming God.

VIII. Nor ought it to be urged, that the Son, even before his incarnation, was called מלאד the Angel, Gen. 48:16; Ex. 23:20. For that signifies no inferiority of the Son, before the time appointed for his incarnation; but only a form resembling the appearances of angels, and prefiguring his future mission into the world.

IX. As man, he was, doubtless, subject to the moral law, as it is the rule both of the nature and actions of man. For, it is a contradiction, as we proved before, to suppose a rational creature, such as is the human nature of Christ, to be without law: and in this manner, he was really bound by the law: 1st, To preserve the holiness implanted into his nature from his first conception, unspotted and pure. 2ndly, To express it in the most perfect manner in his life and actions, from all his heart, all his soul, and all his strength. 3dly, Constantly to persevere therein, without yielding to any temptations, to the end of his course.

X. And as Christ was not only a man, and a common inhabitant of the world, but also an Israelite, that is, a member of the church of the Old Testament, and a citizen of the commonwealth of Israel; he was also subject to the ceremonial and political laws, which were then still in force, according to the divine institution. By virtue of these laws, Christ made use of the sacraments of the Old Testament, observed the festivals, repaired to the temple, and behaved as an obedient subject under a lawful magistracy. He initiated himself by circumcision to the obedience of the ceremonial law; and declared his obedience to the political laws by paying tribute, Matt. 17:24, 25.

XI. It may be objected, that as to the ceremonial laws, Christ declared himself “greater than the temple,” Matt. 12:6. And “Lord of the sabbath,” ver. 8. As to the political, that, being the Son of God, he was exempted from paying tribute, Matt. 17:26, 27. But this may be solved from the different relations which Christ sustained; for, as God, and the Son of God, he was Lord of the law, the lawgiver himself, who, on account of his divine nature, had authority to dispense with precepts of a mutable and positive institution: and if, when he became man, he had insisted on his being the Son of God, and for that reason had acted as equal to God, in that respect neither the officers of the temple, nor the questors of the emperor, could have demanded any thing of him as an inferior. But Christ did not think proper to insist on this his right: but rather to behave as “a Servant of rulers,” Is. 49:7.

XII. But further, as Mediator and Surety, he is under the law in another manner, and that two ways. 1st, As enjoining the condition of perfect obedience, upon which he and his were to partake of happiness, 2dly, As binding to the penalty, due to the sins of the elect, which he had taken upon himself.

XIII. As to the former: had the Son of God been pleased to appear in our nature, but not in the quality of a surety, he would necessarily have been a holy person, and conformed to the law of God, prescribed to the human nature. For every man, as such, is bound to be subject to God, in all righteousness and holiness, which is exactly described in the divine law. But by the personal covenant engagement of the Mediator to that absolute subjection of nature, which is eternally to continue without end, there is another obligation to subjection, limited to a certain period of time, which the apostle, Heb. 5:7, calls “the days of his flesh;” during which, Christ, when obeying the law, was meriting that happiness which he was not in possession of; considering this law, not only as a rule of life, but also as prescribing the condition of acquiring happiness. For, if we seclude the procuring of our salvation, nothing hindered him from the possession of glory and happiness, from the very beginning of his conception. For by being the Son, he was heir of all things. But it was owing to his voluntary covenant-engagement, that “though he was rich,” 2 Cor. 8:9, and might have acted as equal to God, from the very beginning of his incarnation, “yet for our sakes he became poor.” That this subjection to the law, as enjoining the condition of happiness, is to be distinguished from that other absolute subjection to it, as the rule of holiness, appears hence, that Christ has laid aside the first, while this last continues, and will continue to eternity.

XIV. The usefulness of this distinction is considerable, in order to the solving that problem—How the active obedience of Christ, so called, though not so properly, may be imputed to us; seeing, as man, he owed it for himself. For, besides that on our account he was made man, it was not barely from his being man that he was under the necessity of meriting eternal life by the legal covenant: nay, and considered as God-man, abstracted from his suretiship-engagement, he might have exempted himself from all indigence, and all necessity of meriting; and consequently might have gloriously exercised all power in heaven and in earth, in and by the human nature, from the first moment of his incarnation; for this flows from the union of the humanity with the person of the Son of God. But his subjecting himself to the law, as prescribing the condition of happiness, is wholly from his voluntary covenant-engagement, which he entered into on our account, which, by every right or just title, may and ought to be imputed to us. The very ingenious and judicious divine, Francis Gomarus, seems to have had this in his view, when he thus comments on Phil. 2:9: “For our sake, he also veiled his glory for a time, which he might justly enjoy, and submitted to the cursed death of the cross; which, if we consider his merit and power, he might have declined.

XV. Besides, the Son of God was, in virtue of the covenant, subject to “the curse of the law, being made a curse for us,” Gal. 3:16. For, as the law likewise required punishment to be inflicted on the transgressor, and Christ bound himself, by his engagement, to fulfil the whole law; it was necessary, he should come “in the likeness of sinful flesh, to condemn sin in the flesh,” Rom. 8:3. Which likeness of sinful flesh consists in this, that Christ, from his birth, was obnoxious to various miseries, both of soul and body; and at last to that death, by which he concluded the course of his painful life, and in which the most evident signs of every kind of curse appeared; for it was just that the sinner should thus live and die. Now Christ, considered simply as a righteous person, might have been exempted from these miseries, and from such a death; but after having once, by a voluntary engagement, submitted himself to the law for us, he became bound to satisfy also this sanction of the law, which threatened death to sinners; for all these things arise from the mediatorial covenant, and belong to Christ as Mediator.

XVI. But since in Christ, as Mediator, there is an union of the divine and human natures, this difficulty remains to be discussed, whether both natures were in some measure subject to the law. We may easily affirm this of the human, as we have already so often shown; but it seems, from what we have confirmed, §. 6, it must be denied with respect to the divine. However, as the human nature does not, without the divine, complete the person of the Mediator, it does not appear that the Mediator, as such, did not engage to be subject to the law, without bringing his divine nature likewise to share in that subjection.

XVII. In order to remove this difficulty, we are accurately to distinguish between both natures, considered separately, and the same natures united in the person of God-man. It was proper, that both natures should act suitably to themselves and their distinct properties. Since the divine nature, as subsisting in the Son, could not truly and really be subject; therefore, by virtue of the covenant, it did not exert or display all its majesty, in the assumed form of a servant; nor hinder that nature, to which it was united by the hypostatical union, from being truly subject to the law, both as to the condition of the reward, and as to the penal sanction; which, indeed, was neither a real renunciation nor degradation of the divine superiority, but only a certain economical veiling of it for a time.

XVIII. The human nature was really and properly subject to the law: Nay, from the hypostatical union there was superadded a certain peculiar obligation upon the human nature of Christ, considered in relation to the suretiship undertaken for us, as his brethren. For, as men are bound to love God in such a manner as above all things to seek his glory, which shines most illustriously in the justification and sanctification of the sinner; and so to love their neighbour as to desire to deliver their brother from sin and misery, even at their own peril, if possible: so, though no mere man can effect this, yet the man Christ, who is likewise true God, and so able, by his obedience and suffering, to promote this glory of God and the salvation of his brethren, was therefore obliged to undertake and undergo all those things, in which he might show forth this most intense love of God and his neighbour: since he only could do this, so he only was bound to do it. What others were obliged to do conditionally, as we observe a spark of this love in Moses, Ex. 32:32; and in Paul, Rom. 9:3; was incumbent on the man Christ absolutely; because being God-man, he could absolutely perform it.

XIX. We commonly ascribe to the person, God-man, the relation of an inferior to a superior, by a constitution or appointment; that, both by doing and suffering, those things might be accomplished, according to the condition of each nature, which were requisite to our salvation: so that the very obedience and sufferings themselves, are not only to be appropriated to the human nature, but to be considered as truly performed and suffered by the God-man. If this were not the case, they would not be of infinite value and dignity, nor sufficient for our redemption. Hence he, who is “in the form of God,” is said to have “made himself of no reputation, and became obedient unto death,” Phil. 2:6, 7, 8; and to be the Lord of glory, who was crucified, 1 Cor. 2:8.

XX. It is here usual to inquire, whether Christ, as Mediator, is inferior to the Father and subordinate to him. But this controvorsy, it seems, may be easily settled among the orthodox: if the Mediator be considered in the state of humiliation and the form of a servant, he is certainly inferior to the Father, and subordinate to him. It was not of his human nature only, but of himself in that state, that he himself said, John 14:28. “The Father is greater than I.” Nay, we may look upon the very mediatorial office in itself, as importing a certain economical inferiority or subordination; as being to be laid down, when all things shall be perfectly finished, and “God himself shall be all in all,” 1 Cor. 15:28. Nevertheless this undertaking and mediation, and the bringing of fallen man to God, to grace, and glory, is not so much beneath the excellency of the Deity, but we may, without the least hesitation, affirm, that this glory of mediation is incommunicable to any creature. It is the glory of Jehovah to be the righteousness of Israel. This glory he gives to none who is not God: to be Mediator does not merely denote a servant of God, but the great God and Saviour; who, as the first and principal cause of saving grace, equal to the Father, works by his own power, our reconciliation with God, by means of the subjection and obedience of his human nature, without which the co-equal Son could neither perform his service, nor obey the Father.

XXI. The third thing we promised to inquire into, was this: Could the Son refuse to undertake, or withdraw himself from this covenant? To which question we are again to answer distinctly. 1st, If the Son be considered as God, the whole of this covenant was of his own most free will and pleasure. There neither was, nor could be any necessity, to bind the Son of God, as such, to this covenant. Here is nothing but mere good pleasure, philanthropy unmerited, and altogether liberal, pure and unmixed grace. 2dly, If he be considered as man, though he indeed entered into this engagement of his own accord, without being constrained; yet he could not, without sin, from which he is at the greatest distance, withdraw from this agreement: Which we prove in the following manner.

XXII. 1st, The human nature of Christ, as we have often said, could not be without law. The law under which it naturally is, is the royal law of love. Which does not indeed formally, as it was made for man in innocence, but yet eminently it does contain this precept, which John inculcates, 1 Ep. 3:16, “That one lay down his life for the brethren.” I say, the law of love, as given to man in innocence, contains not this precept formally; death being inconsistent with that state, and perfect obedience, which is all summed up in love, frees man from all necessity of dying, according to the promise, “He who doth those things, shall live in them.” And therefore we have shown, that if Christ be considered in himself as a holy person, without respect to the decree of God, and his own engagement for his miserable brethren, he was, by virtue of his perfect holiness, under no necessity of dying and suffering. But the law of love does, supposing the requisite circumstances, eminently contain the command of dying for our brethren. For, it enjoins us to love God above all, and our neighbour as ourselves. And he who loves God above all, does not only delight in God his Creator, Benefactor, Lord, and example; not only studies to please him, but endeavours to promote his glory, and direct all things that are God’s to that end. And as he ought to have a tender regard for the glory of God above his own advantage, he also ought to be ready to undergo every thing by which the glory of God may be most illustrated. And supposing such a one has brethren in distress, from which he can deliver them by his death, so that God shall, in an eminent manner, appear glorious in them; the love of our brethren, together with the love of God, enjoins him not to decline dying for them; especially, if he himself, becoming a conqueror over death, shall thereby obtain a most distinguishing reward at last. Since therefore Christ, as man, could not but be under the law of love; and as a holy man, as doubtless it became him to be, cannot be conceived as destitute of love, much less as having a contrary disposition, it follows, that he could not, in such circumstances, withdraw himself from his agreement to satisfy for men; because the law of love eminently contains such an obligation.

XXIII. 2dly, The Son of God had from eternity engaged to satisfy this covenant, by assuming human nature, and obeying in it, as we showed above, §. 2. If the human nature, personally united to him, could have withdrawn itself from, and renounced the covenant, it was possible that the Son of God himself might have violated his covenant engagements. And in that case, Christ would either not be the true and faithful God, who cannot lie, or not be God omnipotent; because he who, from eternity, willingly engaged in this undertaking, could not, in time, induce the human nature to execute that for which it was assumed at first. Nor do I see what reply can be made to this argument, unless one shall venture to say, that it is contrary to the nature of liberty that the will should be thus bent, or brought over, by a superior cause; and that, in such a case, the human nature, declining to stand to that covenant, would be deprived of the honour of the hypostatical union, and another be assumed in its stead. But besides that this overthrows the inseparability of the hypostatical union, admitted on both sides, the same difficulty must recur with respect to the nature newly assumed; because, equal liberty is to be ascribed to it.

XXIV. 3dly, God had, by an eternal and irrevocable decree, appointed, promised, and confirmed by oath, the inheritance of all blessings in Christ, Heb. 6:13–18; Luke 1:73. But if Christ could have withdrawn himself from the covenant, then the decree of God would have become void, his promises been deceitful, and his oath falsified; and therefore the whole counsel of God concerning the economy of our salvation, so often inculcated in the prophetical writings, would have become of no effect: which is indeed blasphemy to imagine. There is no occasion to suggest, as one has done, that God could, without the payment of any price, have remitted the debt of sin, and, among some thousand methods, have found out another way of saving mankind, had this method proved unsuccessful. For as this is very much more than we can readily yield to, so, it is nothing to the purpose. For God did not only in general decree, promise, and confirm by oath, salvation to his elect; but salvation to be obtained by Christ and his obedience; which decree, promise, and oath could be accomplished no other way; not to say, how unworthy it is of God to be obliged to make new decrees after the former had miscarried. And this is the very bane of the remonstrant divinity.

XXV. 4thly, Let us suppose that the human nature of Christ, to speak plainly, could have withdrawn itself from this covenant; yet it could not, at least without a horrible sin, after the pre-ordination of God, the eternal will of the Son, the promise and oath had been discovered to him. Nay, it had been a more dreadful sin than that of the first Adam, for him obstinately to oppose all these considerations, and prefer his own private advantage to the glory of God and salvation of the elect, and by this means, we should be reduced, by this hypothesis, we are now contending against, to the shocking blasphemies of some schoolmen, who affirm that Christ could have sinned, and consequently have been damned. These are the depths of Satan, which all Christians ought to pronounce accursed.

XXVI. Hence we see what we are to think of the divinity of the remonstrants on this head, who, in chap. xvii. p. 187, of their apology or remonstrance, say, that “the obedience of Christ was of a different nature from ours; but agreeing in this, that it was altogether free. Christ obeyed the will of his Father, not as we obey the law of God, under the threatening of eternal death, in case of disobedience: God forbid! but as an ambassador is said to obey his sovereign, or a beloved son his father, when his sovereign or father confers on either an honourable office to be executed by them, adding the promise of some extraordinary reward, if they will freely, and on their account undertake it. Whoever obeys in this manner, that is, willingly takes that office upon himself, he indeed properly and freely obeys; not that he would properly sin, did he not undertake it; or when undertaken, lay it down again, with the good-will of the Father; much less that he would deserve eternal punishment, if he did not undertake it, or excuse himself from undertaking, or bearing the burden thereof; as it is most certain, that when we disobey God and his law, we deserve punishment. But no such threatening of punishment was made to Christ; but he could either not undertake it, or when he undertook it, resign his charge, and so not enjoy, or forfeit the promised reward.”

XXVII. In this discourse there are as many faults, as sentences. We will now chiefly remark these following things. 1st, The leading error of the remonstrants, from whence their other errors flow, is their making the liberty of the will to consist in indifference, so as one may or may not obey; whereas it is to be placed in the free good pleasure of the mind. Unless one would affirm either of these things, that it was either possible, or lawful, for the holy angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect, nay, Christ himself exalted, not to do the will of God. 2dly. They distinguish not the person of the Son of God, and the grace by which he humbled himself to undertake obedience in the assumed human nature, from the human nature itself, and obedience of Christ, now in his state of humiliation. The grace of the Son of God was so free, that he could not be against this humiliation, or emptying of himself, that he might come under an obligation to obedience. There is no reason, but the most free good pleasure of the divine will, why this future humiliation was decreed by the adorable Trinity, and consequently by the Son himself. Yet, upon supposing this free decree, the human nature assumed by the Logos, or Word, could not decline, or draw back from the office assigned to Christ, and now undertaken by the Logos himself, without sin and disobedience. 3dly. They do not consider, that the human nature of Christ was bound, by an indispensable necessity, to that holiness which is the image of God: since they compare the whole of Christ’s obedience with the undertaking of some office, which a sovereign confers on his ambassador, or a father on his son. For, as an ambassador, in the quality of a subject, and a son, as such, are bound by the law of nature itself, to perform to a sovereign and a father, an obedience distinct from that which arises from their willingly undertaking this honorary office; so, in like manner, the human nature of Christ was, and still continues to be, bound to perform obedience to God, in order to maintain this conformity with the holiness of God; which obligation is distinct from his undertaking the mediatorial office. 4thly. They falsely place the essential difference between the obedience of Christ and ours, in that we obey being awed by the threatening of death; but Christ not so. For that threatening does not properly belong to obedience, which really ought not to be extorted from us by the fear of punishment, but to come freely from a reverence to the divine command, and a love to holiness. Our obedience will be no less obedience in heaven, when the threatening of eternal death shall no longer have any place. Moreover, the same law, which is proposed to us, was the rule of the life and actions of Christ. But that law had the sanction of eternal death, which it was incumbent on Christ to believe to be just and right; tending to inform the conscience of God’s hatred to sin, and to inflame it likewise with a hatred of sin and unrighteousness. And thus far, after Christ had humbled himself for us, he obeyed the law even under the threatening, and acknowledged the same to be just; and that very threatening of the law, produced in Christ a sense of the wrath of God, when he suffered for us. 5thly. They absurdly pretend that Christ could, with the Father’s consent, decline the office committed to him, or resign it, after he had undertaken it: as if one should say that a son could have the consent of a virtuous father, to make him a liar and guilty of perjury. For God the Father had promised, and solemnly confirmed by oath, that he would procure our salvation by the Son. 6thly. Nor is it less absurd, that they perceive no inconvenience flowing from the non-susception, or from the resignation of that office, but this one, that in that case Christ would not enjoy, or would forfeit the promised reward; since the very salvation of all the elect, and, which is above all, the whole of the glory of God, would then fall to the ground. I would also fain know what reward Christ would, according to that hypothesis, have forfeited; whether the honour of the hypostatical union, or eternal salvation itself, and the communion of the divine love and glory; or whether that sublime glory, in which he is now eminently placed above the rest of the creatures: also, whether it is not blasphemy to say, that either the hypostatical union is dissolved, or that any nature hypostatically united to the Son of God, can have no share in eternal salvation; or, if in a state of happiness, has not “a more excellent name” than the rest of the creatures: in like manner, whether the loss of so great a happiness can, in an intelligent nature, be without an eternal sensation of the most bitter anguish: in fine, whether it is not much better, and more worthy of God and his Christ, to believe that Christ could not but undertake the office assigned unto him by the Father, and never withdraw from it, than run headlong into such absurdities.

XXVIII. We shall briefly dispatch the fourth thing remaining; namely, the reward which the Son was to obtain, in virtue of this covenant, by inquiring first, what reward was promised the Son; and then, what relation his obedience had to this reward.

XXIX. The reward promised to the Son is the highest degree of glory, John 17:1: “Father, glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee.” But this glory may be considered distinctly with respect to the humanity, to the Deity, and to the whole person. In the humanity, I observe these three degrees of glory: 1st. That, together with the elect, his fellows, Psa. 45:7, and co-heirs, Rom. 8:17, it is blessed in the perfect fruition of God. 2dly. That it is exalted above all creatures, on account of the dignity of the hypostatical union. 3dly. That the glory of his Godhead shines forth therein, with a more illustrious refulgence than in the days of the flesh; so that the man Christ cannot be seen, but he must appear to be the glorious Son of God, and his glory be “as the glory of the only begotten of the Father,” John 1:14.

XXX. As the Deity of the Son could not properly be humbled, so neither could it acquire any new increase of glory, For as the humiliation of Christ, with respect to his Godhead, consisted in this, that under the human form of a servant, which he assumed, the brightness of his glory was covered as with a veil; so the glorification of the Deity consists in this, that all the magnificence of the glorious majesty of God beautifully discovers itself, and becomes more conspicuous. And this is what Christ prayed for, John 17:5: “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.”

XXXI. The whole person of the Mediator obtains, for a reward, 1st. That “God hath (ὑπερύψωσε, over-raised) highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name,” Phil. 2:9. “Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come,” Eph. 1:21. 2dly, That the whole church is given him as his peculiar possession, Psa. 2:8; Is. 53:10. And that he himself is given as “head over all things to the church,” Eph. 1:22; and “all power given him in heaven and in earth,” Matt. 28:18; that he may govern all things for the benefit of the church. 3dly, That, on account of the most intimate union of the church, as his mystical body, with himself, he receives all those gifts which he merited, and on that account are bestowed on the elect. For the church united to Christ, the body together with the head, is called Christ, 1 Cor. 12:12. And thus literally run the words, Psa. 68:18, לקחת מתכית באדם, “thou hast received gifts in men;” as the Septuagint also renders them, ἒλαβες δόματα ἐν ἀνθρώποις. Instead of which the apostle, Eph. 4:8, not translating literally, but giving the sense of the words, says, ἒδωκε δοματα τοισ ανθρώποις, “he gave gifts to men.” For, as Christ is supposed to receive them, when they are given to his members, so he gives his members what he received of the Father, Acts 2:33. “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth that which ye now see and hear.”

XXXII. The obedience of Christ bears to these blessings, not only the relation of antecedent to consequent, but of merit to reward: so that his obedience is the cause, and the condition now fulfilled, by virtue of which he has a right to the reward, as several express passages of Scripture declare. Psa. 45:7: “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness,” (which is a description of the obedience of Christ) “על כן, therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” Which words contain the reward, intimating the most joyful entrance of Christ into the kingdom of his glory and delight. The relation of obedience to the reward is set forth by the word, therefore, which denotes the cause, and not a mere antecedent. In like manner, Is. 53:12: “לכן, therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, תחת אשד because he hath poured out his soul unto death.” Where the relative particles, תחת אשר and לכן expressly indicate that commutative justice, whereby the reward due bears a reciprocal relation to the obedience performed. Phil. 2:8, 9: “He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross: διὸ καὶ ὁ Θεος αὑτον ὑπερυψωσε, wherefore God also bath highly exalted him.” Heb. 12:2, “ἀντὶ της προκειμενης αὐτῶ χαρᾶς ὑπέμεινε σταυρόν, who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross.” Where there is an express commutation, or interchange, of obedience and reward.

XXXIII. And the thing speaks for itself, For, as there is a covenant between the Father and the Son; “when thou shalt make his soul (if the soul of the Son shall devote himself) an offering for sin,” Is. 53:10, upon performing the condition, the Son acquired a right to the reward, and so has a merit according to the covenant. Nay, as it is not the obedience of a mere man, but of Christ, God-man, an infinite person, it is also of an infinite value, consequently bears the justest proportion to the greatest corresponding glory; and thus far it is a merit of condignity, as it is called; such as no mere creature is capable to acquiring.

XXXIV. The passages of Scripture which represent the humiliation of Christ as the antecedent to the subsequent glory, are not contrary to this doctrine. For every cause is an antecedent, though every antecedent is not a cause. And the merit of Christ for himself is so far from being prejudicial to his merit for us, that, on the contrary, they are inseparably conjoined. For, if he merited for himself, in order to be the head of the elect in glory, and to receive gifts for them, he certainly, at the same time, merited for the elect, in order to their being glorified and enriched with gifts, becoming the mystical body of Christ. Neither by this doctrine is the excellency of the love of Christ towards us diminished, though in his state of humiliation he had likewise an eye to his own exaltation. For he might have been glorious as to himself, without going to it by this way of death and the pains of hell. Besides, he looked upon his own glory as the beginning and cause of ours, and whose fruit was all to redound to us. And it was the highest pitch of love, that he would not be glorious without us. Nor should the word χαριζεσθαί, given, which the apostle uses, Phil. 2:9, be urged too closely, as if the rewards there mentioned were of mere grace, freely given to Christ, without any regard to his obedience, as the cause of his right or title to them. For Paul there expressly asserts, that they were given to Christ on account of his obedience: and that term does not always denote mere grace. Hesychius, that very excellent master of Greek, explains it by δρᾶν τὰ κεχαρισμένα, “to do what is acceptable.” But those things also are called acceptable which are due: the Greeks say, Θεόις κεχαρισμένα ποιεῖν. “to do what is acceptable to the Gods.” Whence the same thing which here, in respect to Christ, is called χάρισμα is, Is. 49:4, called פעלתו “his work”, or the reward of his work, adjudged to him by the just judgment of God. “My judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God.” So that the plain meaning of this passage in Paul is this: Because Christ submitted himself to the Father, by free or voluntary obedience, the Father therefore also rewarded him by giving him a name above every name.

Bible Verse:

“I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless,” (Gen. 17:1).

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